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THE POLITICAL STATUS 



OF 



Porto Rico 



BY 

HON. FEDERICO DEGETAU 

Resident Commissioner from Porto Rico to the United States 



WASHINGTON 

GLOBE PRINTING COMPANY 
1902 



Digitized by the Internet Archive 
in 2011 with funding from 
The Library of Congress 



http://www.archive.org/details/politicalstatusoOOdege 



THE POLITICAL STATUS 



OF 






Porto Rico 



BY 



HON. FEDERICO DEGETAU 



Resiaer.t Con-.nvssioner from Porto Rico to the United 5 



WASHINGTON- 
GLOBE PRINTING COMPANY 
1902 



p, 

Congressional 
Committees. 

23*. 





LECTURE 

DELIVERED AT THE 

School of Comparative Jurisprudence and 
Diplomacy of Columbian University 

FEBRUARY 14, 1902. 



Mr. Dean, Ladies and Gentlemen: 

An American-born citizen who onee occupied a high offi- 
cial position in the Government of Porto Rico, speaking 
recently of the current errors in Porto Rican matters, 
assigned as a reason for them the idea of many persons 
here who believe that, as affects public life, the "Island 
sprung from the ocean just on the eve of the landing of 
American troops." If we consider in many reports and 
speeches the absence of any concrete reference to our insti- 
tutions, our laws, and our insular literature, we shall be 
tempted to think that that statement is entirely correct. 
Sometimes you find the most erroneous affirmations con- 
cerning Porto Rico, of which the author does not care to 
give the proof. In some cases a serious consideration of the 
figures, or of the data which later appears in the same 
report, demonstrates the contrary of what has been given 
as a dogmatic conclusion. But of the readers, or hearers, 
how many take the pains to analyze and verify every point, 
to reach by themselves a safer conclusion, when previously 
a trustworthy person has already done for them that labor? 



Such a situation of things reveals the need of the most au- 
thentic information possible, in order to form a more exact 
idea of the problems that we are compelled to solve. For 
that reason I have accepted with great pleasure the kind 
invitation with which I have been honored by the faculty 
of the School of Comparative Jurisprudence and Diplo- 
macy to speak to you about the political status of Porto 
Rico. It was my purpose to consider first the political 
status of the island as a part of the Spanish Nation and 
then as a territory or an "appurtenant territory" of the 
American Nation; to study how my native country was 
politically established under an European monarchy, and 
how it is temporarily organized by the glorious young 
Republic founded upon the Declaration of Independence — 
upon the declaration of human rights in protest against the 
misrule of another European monarchy. But, in view of 
the difficulty of treating in a single lecture the whole sub- 
ject, I will limit, to-day, my efforts to give you an idea of 
the political status of Porto Rico prior to its annexation to 
the United States. 

Before beginning the subject proper, allow me to present 
to you some historical data to orient ourselves and dispel 
the error denounced by the gentleman to whom I have 
alluded at the beginning. 

As is well known, the daring navigator, Christopher Co- 
lumbus, discovered the Island of Porto Rico on the 19th 
day of November, 1493, in his second trip, five years before 
he discovered the mainland and four years before John 
Cabot, a citizen of the Venetian Republic, reached the 
northern part of the continent. After another trip of Ponce 
de Leon to the Island, Juan Ceron was appointed by the 
Admiral Diego de Colon, Governor of that Antille, and went 
to exercise his functions in 1509. Ceron was substituted 
the next year by Ponce de Leon, appointed Governor by the 
King of Spain. 

Ponce de Leon, the impetuous and gallant soldier, proved 
a despotic and arbitrary ruler, and the King, in view of the 
statements of his accusers, after a solemn trial, in which 
both parties were heard, dismissed him, notwithstanding 
the acknowledgment of the services that his intrepidity had 
rendered to the Crown of Spain and to the cause of eivili- 



zation and Christianity. I employ these last words not 
without certain mental reserve, because I do not share the 
views, on some fundamental points, of the statesmen of 
that time, maintained nowadays by great numbers of the 
conquerors and colonizators in the highest civilized coun- 
tries. 

When Ponce de Leon, deprived of his position as Gov- 
ernor, prepared in the city of San German (in the western 
part of the Island) his expedition to discover Florida, look- 
ing for the fountain of eternal youth (1512), Porto Rico 
already had her Government installed, with special instruc- 
tions for the Christian education of the natives, and princi- 
pally of the children; its hospitals; its bishopric 
established, and its commercial and political lib- 
erties 'and privileges, granted by the Crown, equal 
to those of the Espanola. Among those privi- 
leges, one was to send "Procuradores" (representatives) 
to the court of Spain. I will cite a curious instance. One 
of these "procuradores," Pedro Moreno, in November, 1511, 
obtained from the Sovereigns Don Fernando and Dona Isa- 
bel the distinction for Porto Rico of a coat-of-arms, whose 
leading features were the lamb of St. John upon a red 
book, on a rock in the sea. According to this royal conces- 
sion our shield was more or less faithfully-executed. Allow 
me to recall it now that we are handling a new coat-of-arms 
"at once heraldically correct and artistically good" — to 
quote a New York review — from which these old and anti- 
quated features have been banished. The new coat-of-arms 
lias a great flavor of novelty, commercial good taste and up- 
to-date accuracy of drawing that surpasses the brilliancy 
of a new bill just issued from the Bureau of Engraving and 
Printing.* 

* Another leading feature of our old seal was the letters "F. I." 
(Fidelis Insula — Faithful Island), inscribed on the old shield, which 
were also eliminated from the new one. The impartial student of 
-our history will undoubtedly recognize that, as framers of heraldic 
attrbutes, the rulers of Spain at the beginning of the sixteenth cen- 
tury were more successful than our contemporaries. A careful con- 
sideration of the main features of our history, even as briefly de- 
scribed as in this article, will prove it. In connection with this ob- 
servation, I will quote the following words of Mr. Henry H. Car- 
roll: "The unswerving loyalty of Porto Rico to the Crown of Spain, 
as demonstrated by the truth of history; is no small claim to the 
•confidence and trust of the United States." (Report on the Island of 



6 

In 1537, in view of the fact that the system of appoint- 
ing Governors, either by the Crown or by the Admiral, did 
not give good results, an elective system was inaugurated 
in the Island. 

The electors were appointed for life, very few in num- 
bers, and the officials chosen were vested with municipal 
or city functions, with the general political authority and 
with the administration of justice. This confusion of pow- 
ers, the short period for which the Governors were elected 
— a year without re-election — and the limited number of 
electors, contributed to the failure of this system. It was 
abandoned seven years afterwards. 

At all events, the organization of a political society, if 
not free from the limitations of the epoch, was fully devel- 
oped when Samuel Champlain, the father of New France, 
visited Porto Kico and, with the aspiration of founding a 
state, raised the white flag over Quebec in the beginning of 
the next century (1608).* 

It will lack something in these historical indications if an 
homage of admiration was not paid to the venerable Pil- 
grim who cast anchor at Plymouth in 1620 and, in the name 
of God and as "loyal subjects of our dread sovereign King 
James,'' undertook the glorious enterprise of establishing a 
political society on the "equal rights'' that have constituted 
until now the basic principle of the American common- 
wealth. 

Porto Rico, Washington, D. C. 1899, page 57.) Although not free 
from great errors, the report of Mr. Carroll honors its author for 
the honesty with which he performed his work and the accuracy 
of his observations on the points on which he could exercise his own 
judgment, without being misled by circumstances that only a per- 
son thoroughly conversant with the history and conditions of the 
Island could avoid. In the very words quoted, although I fully 
agree with the observation, I should object to its wording so far as 
the loyalty is attributed to the "Crown of Spain," because the 
monarchical sentiment was never very strong in Porto Rico. The 
people were loyal not to the "Crown," but to a sovereignty that 
they shared during almost all of their history. If a sentiment of 
hostility was maintained against the central power for the injustice 
committed in 1837, it was checked by a sentiment of gratitude and 
sympathy toward the revolutionists of 1868, and toward the Repub- 
licans of 1873, who gave satisfaction to the principal aspirations of 
the people of the Island. 

* "History of the United States of America," Bancroft, Vol. I, 
page 18. 



But, notwithstanding the fact of being the "oldest Amer- 
icans," as we were called by an American orator, we appear 
as the youngest to many persons who read of Porto Rico 
for the first time when" they heard of the article of the 
Treaty of Paris, by virtue of which the neighboring island 
was annexed, together with certain savage or semi-savage 
islands of the distant Asiatic seas.* 

- The language of the treaty establishing distinctions be- 
tween "Spaniards born in the Peninsula" and "natives of 
the territories," awakened in some of these persons the idea 
that Porto Rico, as the Asiatic Islands, was peopled by 
"natives," who, being of the "West Indies," must necessa- 
rily be some race of semi-savage "Indians," Tbey were not 
in possession of the fact that in the whole Island of Porto 
Rico 'there remained, according to the Porto Rican official 
reports of the epoch, only sixty native Indians in 1543. 

It was therefore in that epoch more difficult to find an 
"Indian" in Porto Rico than it is to-day to chance upon one 
on the asphalted streets of Boston, Philadelphia or Wash- 
ington. 

But, as I will not speak to you about our extinct Indian 
aboriginees of Porto Rico, allow me to quote concerning 
them a statement of a historian: "They were," says Fray 
Inigo Abad, "very dexterous in the throwing of the arrow, 
but they never used poison on them, as did the Carib- 
beans/'f (their adversaries in the neighboring islands). 

This moral feature of our insular character has been in- 
herited by the people of Porto Rico to such an extent that it 
has remained as their most prominent trait, even centuries 
after the disappearance of the arrows. If you forget it 
you cannot possibly understand our history, nor be able to 
realize the political peculiarity which distinguishes the 
Porto Rican people, to wit, a serenity, a love of peace, which 
is the distinctive feature of the Porto Rican collective psy- 

* "Spain cedes to the United States of America the Island of 
Porto Rico and other islands now under Spanish sovereignty in the 
.West Indies, and the Island of Guam, in the Marianas, or La- 
drones." Article II of the Treaty of Peace between the United 
States of America and the Kingdom of Spain. 

f Historia de Puerto Rico, por Fray Inigo Abad: Edicion anotada 
por Acorta. p. 45, Puerto Rico, 1866. 



8 

chology. If you forget it, you will unavoidably fall into 
the same error as the official historian, according to whom 
the history of Porto Rico "presents but few points of inter- 
est as compared with Cuba or the other colonies of Spain in 
this hemisphere." (War Department Report of the Director 
of the Census of Porto Rico, 1899, page 13.) 

From a strictly military standpoint this statement is 
probably correct. 

With the exception of the attack on San Juan, in the 
year 1625, by a Dutch fleet, which, after a siege of twenty- 
eight days, was forced to withdraw with considerable loss, 
and also an attempt by the French in the following year, 
which was also repulsed; and still another attack directed 
by Lord Ralph Abercrombie, in 1797, equally unsuccessful — 
there have been no military events in the history of the 
Island. In the matter of sanguinary glories the Porto Rican 
people have only enough to prove that they possess the 
manly qualities necessary to defend their country against 
foreign invasions, and that these qualities are not incom- 
patible with the love of peace. 

Therefore, if history is to be appreciated as a chain of mil- 
itary achievements, the War Department Report is right, 
and the history of Porto Rico "presents but few points of in- 
terest," especially if compared Avith that of Cuba. One fact 
is sufficient to prove this. The people of Cuba maintained a 
war for ten years (from 1808 to 1878), in which many individ- 
ual feats were performed, great sufferings endured, thou- 
sands of precious and worthy lives lost, an immense amount 
of xjroperty destroyed, and about $300,000,000 wasted, to ob- 
tain through the "treaty" or "capitulation" of Zanjon the 
same "greater" "civil, political, and administrative privi- 
leges'' to the people, that Porto Rico had formerly obtained 
without shedding a drop of human blood.* 

But considering the history of Porto Rico in a broader 
sense, and in order to characterize it, I will translate from 
a Cuban writer the following paragraph: 

* The quoted words are from the Report of the Census of Cuba, 
1899, chapter dedicated to "History.*' p. 37. Published by the same 
department and probably written by the same historian. 



9 

"It is undeniable that the history of Puerto Rico," says 
Don Juan Ghialberto Gomez,* "does not offer any attraction 
for those superficial spirits that are impressed only by tho 
spectacle of animated pictures of gaudy color and of tumul- 
tuous scenes. With the exception of the agitated epoch of 
the conquest, and the periods of English and Dutch inva- 
sions, very seldom has blood sprung under the sharp edge 
of the sword and amid the roaring of the gun. But the life 
of a people is not confined to warlike undertakings. On the 
contrary, it can be said that the new direction that the an- 
thropological and social sciences have indicated to his- 
torical studies, relegates to a second place the investigations 
upon martial achievements that were in the past the only 
incentive of the narrations calculated to recall the memory 
of a people. Hence, notwithstanding the relative lack of 
noisy episodes in the history of the antique Borinquen (the 
Indian name for Porto Rico), undoubtedly it would be inter- 
esting to all those who look at things with a high criterion, 
with greatness of soul, and philosophic spirit. To contem- 
plate how a society transforms itself almost entirely by its 
own effort, and adopting the evolutionary methods, affirms 
every day with greater vigor its right to life, honor, and 
liberty, must always be a profitable study and a touching 
spectacle for all those who think, observe, and appeal to 
the intelligence and judgment, to demonstrate the reality 
of progress and the possibility of just revindications by 
the virtue and the intrinsic kindness of the ideas."' 

As I will not dwell on historical disquisitions, in order 
to give you an idea of our political status at the beginning 
of our history, I will only quote the words employed by Don 
Jose Julian Acosta to describe our legislation at the time. 
He atfirms that with the exception of the law on the admis- 
sion of foreigners , "the Spain of the sixteenth century 
transplanted herself to this side of the Atlantic"! And to 
determine the status of the Porto Ricans in those early 
days of our political society, I will cite only the Royal De- 
cree dated Nov. 24, 1688, by which the Porto Ricans, lik/ 
other civilized Spanish Americans, should "enjoy the same 
honors and prerogatives as the native-born in Castile, as has 
been practiced without discussion, having obtained all 
kinds of positions and dignities," to quote literally that 
law. 

* "La Isla de Puerto Rico, - bosquejo historico." per Don Juan 
Gualberto Gomez y Don A. Sendras Burin. — Madrid, 1891, p. 2. 

f Noras a la "Historia de- Puerto Rico.** de Fr. Inigo Abad. 



10 

When, in the dawn of the nineteenth century, the new 
ideas of liberty and justice — which produced the Declara- 
tion of Independence, the Constitution of the United States, 
and the "Declaration des droits de l'homine" of the 
French Revolution — reached Spain in 1808, we find 
Porto Rico sharing the glorious human labor. The 
Supreme Central Board (La Suprema Junta Central), 
governing Spain, convened the Constituent Convention, 
known as the "Cortes de Cadiz." The representa- 
tion of Porto Rico was also convened because, according to 
the language of the decree, the Island was not properly a 
"colony" or a "factory," "as those of other nations," but an 
"essential and integral part of the Spanish Monarchy.'' The 
Island elected to represent her in that famous "Cortes," 
one of her sons, Ramon Power, who proved to be one of the 
most prominent members of that illustrious body, being 
chosen its vice-president. Of the work done by the "Cortes 
of Cadiz," I will only say that it abolished the Inquisition; 
the prerogatives of the aristocracy — known in the Spanish 
laws as "Senbrios y Mayorazgos" — and guaranteed indi- 
vidual rights. 

I cannot resist the temptation to translate the first arti- 
cles of that Constitution framed under the shields of the sol- 
diers of Napoleon in the besieged city. By the first article 
the Spanish Nation is defined as "the reunion of the Span- 
iards of both hemispheres.'' Article II declares that "the 
Spanish Nation is free and independent, and is not, and 
cannot be, the patrimony of any family or person." Article 
III states that "the sovereignty resides essentially in the 
nation, and, therefore, to this (the nation) belongs exclu- 
sively the right to establish her fundamental laws." Arti- 
cle IV stipulates that "the nation is obliged to keep and 
protect, by prudent, just laws, civil liberty, property, and 
all other legal rights of the individuals who compose it." 

Since then Porto Rico partook of the fate of the other 
Spanish provinces as to its fundamental political status. 

The constitutional and liberal periods in Spain at that 
time were short. In 1814 the Constitution was abolished by 
Ferdinand VII. In 1820 he accepted it anew. The Cortes 
was convened; Porto Rico was represented in it, and in 
1823 the reaction reigned again. 



11 

The "JEstatuto Real" of 1834, which was a kind of con- 
stitutional charter granted by the Queen Regent, was also 
extended to Porto Rico. But in the Cortes of 1837 a bill 
was introduced providing that Cuba and Porto Rico were 
to be governed by exclusive legislation and depriving them 
of representation in the National Congress. In a membership 
of 155 representatives, a majority of 25 votes authorized the 
enactment of the bill. That was the greatest error of Spain 
in her policy toward the Antilles. The 25 majority votes le- 
galizing the injustice practically undermined the integrity of 
the Spanish Nation, and primarily caused the bloody contests 
in Cuba that recently ended with the Treaty of Paris. In the 
discussion of the bill its far-reaching effects were clearly 
foreseen by some of the representatives who opposed the 
measure. One of them, Seiior Nunez, especially insisted on 
the rational influence of the "seductive" example for the in- 
habitants of the Antilles, of New Orleans and New York, 
with which they were in close contact. Then Porto Rico, like 
Cuba, awaiting this "exclusive legislation.'' remained under 
the "Laws of Indies and the Royal j &ftes and Decrees" en- 
acted for them. The municipalities lost their old prerogatives 
and became bodies merely vested with faculties to propose to 
the "superiority" the measures that the Governor approved 
or not, according to his own judgment. Nevertheless, it is 
not exact that the Governors could not be held responsible 
for their acts, because they had to account for the manner 
in which they used their powers in the kind of trial called 
"Juicio de Residencia," to which they were subject. 

This period, from 1837 to 1868, is, perhaps, in the history 
of Porto Rico the one which proves better the high politi- 
cal sense of the people. The Porto Rican leaders clearly 
understood that independence was not synonymous with 
liberty, and practically demonstrated their faith in the 
power of the ideas. They concentrated the public attention 
on the great social question that they thought was the first 
to be settled — the abolition of slavery. They were so ener- 
getic in the diffusion of the truth, some years afterward 
happily formulated by our great Lincoln, that "a people 
cannot be half free and half slave," that in every home they 
created a strong sentiment for the immediate abolition of 
slaverv. Secret societies were formed to free the slaves. 



12 

The first of these was organized in the city of Mayagiiez. 
The members paid their contributions secretly, and Dr. Be- 
tances, its founder, bought with these contributions, chil- 
dren just born in slavery and freed them. The work for 
emancipation was general throughout the Island. In Spain 
one of the Porto Ricans, Julio Vizcarrondo, founded a soci- 
ety for the abolition of slavery (Sociedad Abolitionista), 
which held public meeting's and profusely circulated litera- 
ture on the subject. Thus when the abolition of slavery 
was officially accomplished through the efforts of the people 
it was in fact abolished to such an extent that only about 
31,000 slaves remained, out of a total colored population 
of 257,709. 

This does not mean that in Porto Rico the need of. other 
political reforms was not greatly felt and that they were 
not earnestly sought. The prophecy of the representative 
in the Cortes of 1837, to which I have alluded, began to 
haunt the Spanish authorities. In a reserved communi- 
cation of the Governor of the Island to the Secretary of 
War and "Ultramar/' dated January 14, 1862, referring to 
two of the leading men of the preceding generation — Baldo- 
rioto Castro and Acosta — he accused them of their "Yankee 
ideas," of their "democratic tendencies through which the 
youth, fascinated by the new American school, born and 
nourished in the United States; are irresistibly drawn."' 

In 1865 the Secretary of Ultramar (of Colonies), then Mr. 
Canovas del Castillo, acknowledging that the commercial, 
literary, and social development of the Antilles, required an- 
other law than those of the Philippines or Fernando Po, con- 
vened a meeting of representatives of Porto Rico and Cuba 
to prepare the "exclusive legislation" to which the Consti- 
tution referred. Three out of the four commissioners sent 
by the Island, echoing the sentiments of the people, asked 
the immediate abolition of slavery, "with indemnification 
to the owners of the slaves," or "without it." In the discus- 
sions of that Board of Information those representatives of 
Cuba who were in sympathy with abolition, congratulated 
the commissioners from Porto Rico on account of the condi- 
tion of the people of the Island which allowed them to take 
that position. If you take into consideration the circum- 
stances surrounding these three men; if vou remember that 



13 

in the United States the great Lincoln, three years before 
(1863), recommended "a gradual abolition, with indemnifi- 
cation to the owners," you will duly appreciate the civic 
spirit and moral courage of these three Porto Ricans. Cas- 
telar, the great Spanish orator and statesman, said, in his 
discourse delivered in the Congress on June 20, 1870 : "The 
Commissioners from Porto Rico made a report that shall be 
their honor, their glory; a report that in the future will be 
placed beside the Declaration of the Rights of Man on the 
4th of August, 1879." And again: "Allow me, gentlemen, to- 
consecrate to those illustrious men a eulogy in which every 
member of the assembly will uuite. Since the renunciation 
by the feudal lords of their privileges in the French Constit- 
uent Convention such a sublime abnegation has not been 
seen. The colonial lordship does not offer in any part of 
the w6rld such an example." 

The end of this period was marked by the deportation 
from Porto Rico of citizens of the Island sent to Madrid "to 
receive orders from the Government." The Governors were 
not hindered in taking this despotic measure, because at 
that time the central Government of Madrid banished to 
Porto Rico the citizens of the capital who were not "persona 
grata" in the court of Spain. In that way they sent, for in- 
stance, to Porto Rico a famous poet who wrote a sonnet 
against the Queen of Spain. 

The revolution in Spain in 1868 ended that period. The 
Revolutionary Board of Madrid enacted a declaration ac- 
cording to which all the children born of a slave woman 
after September 19, of that year, were free. A decree of De- 
cember 14, of the same year, convened to the National Con- 
gress the Representatives of Porto Rico and a new political 
life was opened for the Island. Two political parties were 
organized. The Liberal-Reformist, advocating reforms of a 
democratic nature, asked for the extension of the same 
democratic laws passed for the Spanish Peninsula, among 
them the trial by jury. The Conservative, mainly composed 
of Spaniards, advocated the "status quo." 

Since then both parties have divided public opinion in 
Porto Rico until the recent American occupation. They 
could change the name and modify the principles, but the 
fundamental characteristic position of both remained the 



u 

same. In the revolutionary period of 186S the Liberal party 
obtained sweeping victories. Section 1 of the Constitution 
of 1869, which gauranteed civil liberties, was promulgated 
in Porto Rico. Provincial and municipal laws of a liberal 
character were passed (1870), and slavery was abolished. 
There was, also, promulgated in the Island an electoral law 
which recognized the vote of those who were able to read 
and write, or who could pay any contribution whatever to 
the state, provincial or municipal treasuries of the Island. 
The Island of Porto Rico thus became organized, so far as 
to her participation in the national sovereignty, as an equal 
of the other provinces of Spain. She sent to the National 
Congress her representatives, whose number increased from 
eleven in 1868, to sixteen members of the House and four 
Senators at the last election, March, 1898. The contribu- 
tion necessary to be an elector was also changed from any 
sum to $25 a year, and afterwards was decreased to $10 
and $5. 

When the restoration of the Bourbons took place in Spain 
the Constitution of 1876 was promulgated and extended to 
Porto Rico. In 1887 the majority of the members of the 
Liberal party formed the Autonomist party. Its tenets 
were incorporated in the decree establishing self-govern- 
ment for the Island of Porto Rico, and in the decree ex- 
tending to Porto Rico the right of suffrage to all male citi- 
zens (November 25, 1897). 

The main features of this law were the establishment of 
a parliamentary autonomic system. The legislative power 
as to the insular matters was vested in the insular cham- 
bers conjointly with the Governor-General. The insular 
representation consisted of two bodies of equal powers — 
the insular Senate (called Council of Adminstration) and 
the Chamber of Representatives. The Senate was similar 
to the Spanish Senate. A part of it (seventeen of its mem- 
bers) were' appointed by the Governor, acting for the Crown, 
and another part (eighteen) were elected. Among the qual- 
ifications required by the law to be entitled to sit in the 
Council, one was to have been born in the Island or to have 
had four years' constant residence therein, and other re- 
strictions excluded from that body persons not conversant 
with the needs, customs, and character of the people. 



15 

The Governor assumed a double character. He was the 
representative of the national government and the^head of 
the administration of the colony. Acting in this last ca- 
pacity no executive order of his was valid unless authorized 
by a Secretary of his Cabinet, who was to be responsible 
for it before the local Legislature. 

The veto conferred on the Governor was limited as fol- 
lows by the Constitution: 

"Whenever, in the judgment of the Governor-General, an 
act of the insular parliament goes beyond its powers or im- 
pairs the rights of the citizens as set forth in Article I of 
the Constitution, or curtails the guarantees prescribed by 
law for the exercise of said rights, or jeopardizes the inter- 
est of the colony or of the nation, he shall forward the act 
to the Council of Ministers of the Kingdom, which, 
within a period that shall not exceed two months, shall 
either 'assent to it or return it to the Governor-General with 
the objections to its sanction and proclamation. The insu- 
lar parliament may, in view of the objections, reconsider or 
modify the act, if it deems fit, without a special proposi- 
tion. 

"If two months shall elapse without the Central Govern- 
ment giving any opinion as to the measure agreed upon by 
the Chambers and transmitted to it by the Governor-Gen- 
eral, the latter shall sanction and proclaim the same." * 

The veto was, therefore, of a suspensive nature, and to 
become operative it needed the approval of the National 
Cabinet. This Cabinet, being a parliamentary government, 
was responsible to the National Congress. In the Congress 
Porto Rico was represented, as has been stated, by sixteen 
Representatives and four Senators, with equal rights and 
privileges to those of the other provinces, who were enabled 
by questions and interpellations to investigate the acts of 
the National Cabinet, and to charge the responsibility for 
their acts to the members of the Council of Ministers of the 
Kingdom. 

The Island, which had a greater autonomy than the con- 
tinental provinces of Spain, especially in economic matters, 
received with the Constitution establishing self-government 
the power vested in the insular parliament by Article 39 "to 



*Article XLUI of the "Constitution Establishing Self-Govern- 
ment in the Islands of Cuba and Porto Rico" — translation. Divis- 
ion of Insular Affairs, War Department, Washington, D. C, 1899. 



16 

frame the tariffs and fix the duties to be paid on merchan- 
dise, as well as for its importation into the territory of the- 
Island, as for the exportation thereof." By this article the 
power was given to Porto Rico to tax the products of Spain. 
Such was, in its fundamental features, the political status 
of Porto Rico on the memorable day, October 18, 1899, when 
Old Glory, symbolizing American institutions, was raised in 
Porto Rico; and on that solemn occasion, when that valiant 
soldier, honest man, and beloved Governor, General Guy V. 
Henry, before the enthusiastic Mayor and citizens of Ponce 
declared that: 

"The forty-five States represented by the stars embla- 
zoned in the blue field of that flag unite in vouchsafing to 
you prosperit}' and protection as citizens of the American 
Union." 

The Porto Rican people have clearly understood that by 
its geographical position, as well as by its history, the Island- 
is, in fact, an integral part of the American Union. For 
this reason the political parties of the Island inscribed in 
their respective platforms the unanimous aspiration of the 
people to become an organized territory, with the certainty 
of soon being admitted as a State of the xVmerican Union. 

The United States cannot fully perforin the duties im- 
posed upon it by the Monroe Doctrine, any more than it can 
completely guarantee its own safety, without what John 
Adams termed its "natural appendage." The American flag 
can perhaps be lowered in the distant Philippines. It must 
be maintained in the neighboring Island, with the institu- 
tions of liberty and justice tbat it represents. 

"Give us a chance, and we will prove to what extent we 
are able to perform our political duties;" that is what the 
Porto Rican people ask. They trust in the spirit of justice 
and honor of the people represented by tbe generals of the 
army, as Miles and Henry, whom they received with a 
hearty welcome as the heralds of the principles that form 
the pride and glory of every American here, and in the en- 
tire world, of every man who has been uplifted to the con- 
sciousness of his civic human dignity by the proclamation 
made through the Declaration of Independence that man- 
kind has reached its majority. 



LIBRARY OF CONGRESS 



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